Turners Station Mercantile is located around four miles from the eastern edge of Springfield on State Highway D. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.

TURNERS – Old-fashioned Halloween fun, a sense of community, and generations of Ozarks history come together at Greene County’s oldest grocery store on Nov. 1 during its annual fall party, and the public is invited to attend. 

It’s not the date on which the party was originally supposed to take place at Turners Station Mercantile, a small rock stop around four miles from Springfield’s eastern edge that dates to 1889. Initially scheduled for Oct. 25, the party was rained out and rescheduled, giving folks a chance to extend their fall festivities. 

“We just decided to go ahead. We checked the weather for next Tuesday, and it’s the day after Halloween, but it doesn’t matter. The kids get to play games,” says Jill Elsey-Stoner, the store’s proprietor, who is the sixth generation of her family to own the stop. “We have about 3,000 prizes we need to give out. Everybody needs to come and play games and take home prizes.” 

Jill Elsey-Stoner has owned Turners Station Mercantile for more than 25 years. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

The festivities, which run from 5-7 p.m., are officially sponsored by Candace’s Counter Toys and Candy, a candy counter inside Turners Station operated by Elsey-Stoner’s daughter, Candace Stoner. Most activities are free (except for meals — more on that in a minute), no tickets are necessary, and costumes are welcome but not required. 

“They’re more than welcome to wear costumes,” says Elsey-Stoner. “We will be in costume. It’s optional, but if they want to dress up, feel free.”

Some elements of the rescheduled event may not be the same as originally planned, but in addition to face painting (which is $5), there will still be a variety of old-time activities, including a duck pond, a spin-to-win and a cake walk, which is similar to musical chairs.

During a cake walk, chairs are numbered and placed in a circle, or numbers are placed on the ground. Then music begins: Participants move from spot to spot until the music stops, and a number is drawn from a hat. The person who corresponds with that number gets to choose a cake to take home. 

“It surprises me how many people don’t know what (a cake walk) is,” says Elsey-Stoner, who notes it’s fun to introduce kids to the tradition. “Of course, my generation and older grew up with that. I don’t know if they don’t do them in schools anymore — there’s a disconnect there somewhere.”

Instead of an entire cake, the walk at Turners features slices, cupcakes and cookies from Gala Occasions Desserts. 

“We encourage adults to take part, too,” says Elsey-Stoner. “Especially in the cake walk because that would be something they would remember and they need to teach the next generation.” 

Food trucks will be present for dinner

Now around 20 years running, the annual party is folded into Turners Station’s weekly food truck night, which brings local food producers to the stop on Tuesday evenings between March and November. This week, a variety of food trucks and vendors — Lae’s Authentic Egg Rolls, Chameleon Cuisine, N. T. Tea & Food Shop, Uncle Charlie’s Deep Fryed Sweets, Bub’s Distillery and Gala’s — will be present during the party in case attendees would like to purchase dinner. 

The party and food-truck night are only two examples of a variety of events held at the small grocery store throughout the year. Others include an annual frog-jumping contest, a watermelon-seed-spitting contest, and a monthly Bluegrass jam from May to October on Thursday nights. For the first time, an autumn fair was also held in September.  It’s also long been a spot for hopeful political candidates to stop during their campaigns and share their stances. 

History tied to the railroad

The 123-year-old store links today with another time. It began as a result of the railroad: The Turner family donated land for a train station in 1882, and the store eventually followed.

Today, trains still regularly trundle past the business, which is a gathering place for locals. Some come by for meals — Turners has a deli, as well as hot food — or to mail a letter, as the store still has a post office. The latter was once the norm in rural stores, but today is very much an exception. 

Besides its mail and meal possibilities, the store has a selection of grocery items as well as products from local artists, and remains open during the events, so there’s also a chance to shop.  

It’s all part of the fun for Elsey-Stoner, who has owned the business for more than 25 years and runs it with her daughter.

“I love what I do,” she says. “And we have such an engaged community. They seem to enjoy what we do. It makes a perfect pairing. I was raised that you serve your community and they’re good to me in return.” 

Turners Station Mercantile’s party is scheduled for Nov. 1 from 5-7 p.m. For more information, click here.

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: kaitlyn@ozarksalive.com More by Kaitlyn McConnell More by Kaitlyn McConnell